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Quinones-Lopez v. Coco Lagoon Dev. Corp.

Citation: 14 ELR 20445
No. No. 83-1353, 733 F.2d 1/20 ERC 2226/(1st Cir., 04/26/1984) Aff'd

The court upholds the Corps of Engineers' finding under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that a wetland filling project in Puerto Rico would have no significant environmental impact. The Corps found that the net impact of the proposed fill would be positive, destroying 100 acres of ecologically low-valued "secondary wetlands," created when a high-value mangrove swamp was filled years ago, but creating 30 new acres of mangrove swamp. NEPA requires an environmental impact statement whenever there is a substantial possibility that an activity could significantly affect the human environment. The court holds that the Corps' finding of no significant impact stands up even under the strictest judicial scrutiny. The record adequately supports the Corps' findings on its geographical jurisdiction and the project's impacts on mangrove swamps. Some preliminary studies in the record, assessing past as well as present filling at the site, suggest that the overall impact on the area has been significant; however, the record taken as a whole supports the conclusion that the impact of present filling is slight.

[The district court opinion affirmed here is published at 13 ELR 20700 — Ed.]

Counsel for Appellants
Armando Cardona Acaba
Legal Services of Puerto Rico
P.O. Box "CM," Rio Piedras PR 00928
(809) 763-5007

Counsel for Appellees
Martin W. Matzen, Anne P. Almy
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4426

Daniel F. Lopez-Romo, U.S. Attorney; Francisco A. Besosa
Rm. 101, Fed. Office Bldg., Carlos E. Chardon St., Hato Rey PR 00918
(809) 753-4656

Steven C. Lausell
Jimenez & Fuste
Suite 505, Midtown Bldg., 421 Munoz Rivera Ave., G.P.O. Box 6104, San Juan PR 00936
(809) 767-1030

Joined by Campbell and Wisdom,* JJ.